Nasal turbinates are bony and soft tissue structures that project from the walls of the nasal passages. The largest and most important of these, the inferior turbinates, help trap dust and other particles so they don’t enter your lungs. In addition, they add heat and moisture to the air you breathe in, enabling your lungs to function more effectively. These turbinates can become enlarged and interfere with normal breathing, contributing to nasal obstruction and snoring. If symptoms become troublesome and are interfering with your quality of life, an ENT can reduce their volume using a procedure called turbinate reduction.
In this blog, the Atlanta ENT physicians at Sinus Center of Atlanta will explain what causes nasal turbinates to become enlarged, how they may be treated, and when a turbinate reduction may be recommended.
What causes nasal turbinates to become enlarged?
A variety of conditions can cause nasal turbinates to become enlarged. Known as turbinate hypertrophy, this condition can be caused by one or more of the following:
- Allergic or non-allergic rhinitis – inflammation of the mucous membranes within the nose due to allergies or other causes
- Deviated septum – a bent or off-center division between your nostrils
- Upper respiratory infections
- Vasomotor rhinitis (non-allergic) – caused by things like medications, hormones, and changes in temperature
How are enlarged nasal turbinates treated?
Conservative treatments are usually the first course of action for turbinate hypertrophy and may include the following:
- Allergen immunotherapy, such as allergy drops
- Nasal sprays
- Avoiding environmental irritants
If these treatments don’t provide enough relief or if medications are causing troublesome side effects, a turbinate reduction may be recommended. This can be performed either in the operating room or the office.
What happens during an office turbinate reduction procedure?
This minimally invasive procedure is performed under local anesthesia. A specialized device is inserted into the target area, where it’s precisely treated without harming surrounding tissue. The device utilizes radiofrequency energy to shrink turbinates from the inside out, which occurs over the weeks following the procedure. It also causes the turbinates to swell less in response to allergens. The procedure can be done in about 15 minutes in an ENT physician’s office, and patients will experience minimal discomfort. Most patients can return to their regular activities immediately after treatment (avoid extreme exercise the day of the procedure).
What are the advantages of radio frequency turbinate reduction?
There are a number of advantages of undergoing RF turbinate reduction, including:
- Procedure is very fast (each nostril takes only minutes to treat) and the procedure causes minimal discomfort
- Only local anesthetic is needed, so you won’t need to go to a surgical center or be put under general anesthesia. You can drive yourself home as well.
- No downtime involved; patients can immediately resume their regular activities
- Results are effective and long-lasting
- Decreases nasal congestion as well as drainage problems
- Treats some of the symptoms of severe or chronic nasal allergies
- Improves breathing
- Reduces nasal congestion related snoring and sleep apnea
- Procedure is usually covered by insurance
- Preserves mucous membranes, allowing the inside of the nose to remain moisturized after the procedure and letting mucus perform its function of trapping dust and bacteria
- Reduces or eliminates need for medication to treat nasal congestion, avoiding the ongoing cost as well as side effects associated with the long-term use of medications such as nasal sprays
Where can I find turbinate reduction treatment in Atlanta?
Schedule a consultation at one of the Sinus Center of Atlanta’s three locations to learn more about turbinate reduction. Our board-certified ENT physicians specialize in treating nasal obstructions, sinusitis, and other related conditions. We’ll work with you to find the best treatment for your condition so you can breathe more easily. In the meantime, take our Sino-Nasal Evaluation quiz to help determine the severity of your sinus problem and whether enlarged turbinates may be contributing to your symptoms.